Week 35: 2 Chronicles

Prepare these questions for Sunday, November 24, 2013.

2 Chronicles continues the retelling of the history of Israel/Judah for the newly-returned-from-exile
Jewish people. It begins with Solomon's reign over Israel and goes all the way through the edict by the Persian King Cyrus that allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem.

1. What does the detail of the building of the temple by Solomon tell you about how the Israelites valued the temple itself? Why would all of those details be included in this retelling of their history?

2. The phrase "he is good, his love endures forever" is used several times in this book when priests are speaking of God. How might this phrase have been an encouragement to the Jewish people after their return to Jerusalem?

3. Most of the book after Solomon details the kings of Judah (the post-split northern kingdom of Israel is mostly ignored in this book). If a king was good (like Hezekiah) and tried to lead the people according to God's will, he was talked about more. What message is this author trying to give the Jewish people living under Persian rule and trying to rebuild their sense of self and community?

4. Why would the author end the book with the reminder of the exile and the proclamation of King Cyrus in verses 36:15-23? Is there anything in your own life that you would want to be reminded of or to keep a record of for your future decisions?

Week 34: 1 Chronicles

Prepare these questions for Sunday, November 17, 2013.

After the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem (586 BC or so) the Jewish people were scattered. The nation of Israel had broken into two pieces (Israel and Judah-we read about it in 1 Kings) and Israel had already been scattered among foreigners, but Judah (and the city of Jerusalem) was still Jewish. With the defeat by the Babylonians, there was no longer a center of Jewish culture, religion, or politics. They Babylonians eventually got beat up by the Persians and the Persians allowed conquered people to return to their homelands because it made them less likely to rebel. SO, the Jews went back to Jerusalem, but they felt really bad about themselves. Chronicles (1 and 2 together) seems to be an attempt to remind the Jewish people of their culture and history and to reconnect them to their faith. It retells their history so many of the stories will be familiar from your earlier reading.

1. Chapters 1-9 give a detailed genealogy of the tribes and leaders of the Israelites. Why would that be important to retell at this moment in Jewish history, after the exile and subsequent return to Jerusalem?

2. Chapter 10 very bluntly tells the end of King Saul's life. Why does the author say Saul died and why do you think the writer included that statement in his retelling of the story?

3. Most of the chapters from 11 on tell of King David's life and accomplishments. This time, however, the story focuses on David's military prowess and success. Why would this version of David's life be so focused on his kingship and not on the other details of his life that are so famous? (friendship with Jonathon, relationship with Bathsheba, etc.)

4. David wanted to build a new temple for God, but he passed the job on to his son, Solomon. What was the reasoning for this decision and what does that tell you about how the Israelites viewed the temple?

Week 33: Lamentations

Prepare these questions for November 10, 2013.

Like Jeremiah predicted, Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the people were pretty bummed out. So, they lamented (which means they cried out in pain). The book of Lamentations is five poems about the destruction of Jerusalem and the regret and anguish the people felt during that time. Some traditions have that Jeremiah himself wrote the poems, but that is not definite. Each of the five chapters is one poem and each poem contains 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet (which probably made it easier to memorize and pass down to others).

1. Who does the author (or authors) blame for the woes of the city of Jerusalem?

2. In Hebrew poetry, the center of the poem or collection was the most important thought or idea. Read Chapter 3 and identify what you think was the most relevant idea that the writer wanted people to remember.

3. Choose images of suffering from these poems that stand out to you (i.e., "her eyes fail from weeping" or "she groans and turns away"). Why is the city personified in these phrases? Have you ever felt pain or sorrow that made you unable to see through your tears or forced to turn away from the pain?

4. Read verses 5:19-22. Do you ever want to ask God any of these questions? Try to write your own poem/prayer that admits your sins and asks God the hard questions you have for Him. You might want to start each line with a letter from our alphabet to give you guidelines and structure.

Week 32: Jeremiah 37-52

Prepare these questions for November 3, 2013.

1. In Chapter 38 Jeremiah warns that the people who stay in the city will die either through starvation or in battle, but that if they surrender to the Babylonians now, they will have a chance to live. The leaders wanted to kill Jeremiah for destroying morale and depressing the soldiers. (they didn't kill him, but he did spend the rest of the time in jail until the Babylonian king freed him) Have you ever had to tell someone an uncomfortable truth that you did not want to have to say? What did you do and how did you deal with it?

2. Jeremiah was frequently on his own in his ministry. What was his driving reason for continuing to prophesy and warn the people even though they didn't want to listen to him?

3. Jerusalem did fall and the Babylonians took over. How could the people of Jerusalem have made their lives easier and avoided such a huge catastrophe?

4. It is easy to judge the people of the Old Testament for their poor decisions, but we often do the same thing they did. Where are you making the same kinds of poor decisions over and over in your life right now?

Week 31: Jeremiah 1-36

Prepare these questions for October 27, 2013.

The book of Jeremiah contains the prophesies and some historical accounts of the life of Jeremiah. It is a combination of poetry and prose and is not in chronological order, which makes it a little difficult to follow sometimes. The major theme is that if the people do not stop their destructive ways, they will be destroyed. Which is what happened, so they really should have listened better.

1. Read Jeremiah 1:5 and 29:11. How would you live your life differently if  you could really hold these words that God spoke to Jeremiah in your own heart?

2. Throughout this book the people are constantly warned of the consequences of their actions yet they still chose to do wrong. Why did they do that and why do you/we make similar choices today?

3. In Chapter 12 Jeremiah complains that bad people have good lives and he demands an explanation for this from God. Do you ever struggle with the fact that some people with poor behavior have seemingly "better" lives than you do?

4. Jeremiah told the truth regarding the fall of Jerusalem but he was threatened and mocked for his words. Have you ever been mocked for your obedience to God? How did you deal with that situation?